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Sean Kennedy presents: EHC Needs Assessments

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Sean Kennedy presents: EHC Needs Assessments

The test that is applied once an EHC needs assessment is completed
How relevant case law can assist when applying the test
Things to consider when writing a parental contribution

This seminar will look at the test that is applied once an EHC needs assessment is completed and this will be done alongside a review of the relevant caselaw. All of this information will be used when considering what a parental contribution should look like.

This will take place on Tuesday 10th Jan at 7.30 PM.
Click here to book your place

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Breaking down the EHC needs assessment

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Sean Kennedy presents: Breaking down the EHC needs assessment including what evidence is required and what test and other factors should be applied when a local authority makes a decision.

This will take place on Tuesday 6th December 2022 at 19:30

Click here to book your place

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An introduction to SEND and EHCp

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This online session looks at how to identify special educational needs and how to apply for an EHCp. Although aimed at beginners, it is likely to be useful to more experienced parents, young person and teachers.

This will be hosted by Sean Kennedy Barrister and will take place on Wednesday 2nd November 2022 at 7.30pm.

Click here to book your place 

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Elective Home Education

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This guidance from the Department of Education from April 2019  describes elective home education as “a term used to describe a choice by parents to provide education for their children at home or in some other way they desire, instead of sending them to school full-time. This is different to education provided by a local authority other than at a school, for example for children who are too ill  to  attend  school”.

The recent case of Goodred v Portsmouth City Council [2021] Ms Cristina Goodred, after a successful crowd-funding campaign, challenged her local authority by way of Judicial Review as she considered they were interfering unnecessarily in the way she was educating her there children out of school and this was tantamount to bullying and indeed was nothing more than an attempt  force her to send her children to school despite what she was providing them was suitable. The Councils position was they were just complying with the most recent version of their policy “Elective Home Education” which was issued in 2020.

The difficulties started when the Portsmouth County Council wrote to Ms Goodred in July 2020 to review her children’s elective home education provision. She responded by providing a description of what the children had been doing but this was not seen to be sufficient, and more detail was asked for.  Ms Goodred responded by quoting paragraph 2.11 of the above guidance which states when electively home educating:

There are no legal requirements for you as parents educating a child at home to do any of the following: 

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This did not satisfy the Council and Ms Goodred was served with a notice to satisfy (NTS) pursuant to 437(1) of the Education Act 1996 which places the burden of proof on parents to demonstrate that they are causing their child to receive a suitable education.

Ultimately the matter ended up before the High Court and Portsmouth successfully manage to defend its position. But what did The Hon. Mr Justice Lane say and how did he clarify the requirement on parents who choose to electively home educate?

Anyone who wants a comprehensive answer to the above question is encouraged to read the judgement, but it is important to be mindful that, when doing so, it relates to how Portsmouth’s policy related to Ms Goodred rather than the application of the policy generally.

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In any event, perhaps the judgement provided the following clarification:

a) Parents do need to satisfy a local authority that they are providing suitable education. In respect of what must be provided, the Judge confirmed that there are no legal requirements to teach the National Curriculum, give formal lessons, mark work done by the child, formally assess the child’s progress or set development objectives.

b) The local authority must simply satisfy themselves that the education is suitable to the child’s age aptitude and ability.

c) There is no definition of a ‘suitable’ education in English statute law. A court will reach a view of suitability based on the individual circumstances of each child. The Department of Education’s guidance suggest that the term ‘suitable’ is assessed on the following grounds:

d) The local authority can request that the parent meet with them or provide copies of the child’s work. The parent is not obliged to do either of those things but must provide sufficient information to enable the local authority to be satisfied that the education provision is suitable.

e) A local authority must not be unreasonable when the seeking to assess whether the education under consideration is suitable.

f) A local authority must always explain any concerns it has so parents can respond in a meaningful way

g) Home educated children are not expected to work to school based standards.

Perhaps the above can be summarised by saying that elective home education is a big step which imposes the duty on the parent that their child must receive a suitable education. That said, when deciding whether this standard has been met, a local authority must not behave unreasonably.

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Judicial Alternative Dispute Resolution Hearings Pilot 2021

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Very recent tribunal announcement on Judicial Alternative Dispute Resolution Hearings Pilot 2021:

  1. From May 2021 until the end of July 2021, the First-tier Tribunal Special Educational Needs and Disability will list certain types of appeals for judicial alternative dispute resolution (JADR) hearings.  These will be cases which involve Section I of an EHC plan.
  2. The JADR hearing will be listed approximately one week after the final evidence date and two weeks before the date of the final hearing. It will have an estimated length of up to 1.5 hours.
  3. The purpose of the JADR hearing is to support parties to resolve their disputes by agreement. At the hearing the judge, who has been trained in judicial mediation, will consider how to assist the parties to reach an agreement.
  4. It may be possible for the judge at the JADR hearing to provide a view as to whether either party is being unrealistic, either in respect of the evidence provided to support the placement they propose or the grounds of appeal or response. In some cases, it may be possible for the judge to express an opinion as to the strength or weakness of the appeal or response (or parts of them).
  5. It is important to stress that JADR hearings are private, confidential hearings and that the judge who conducts the JADR hearing will not conduct the final hearing in the case, if the parties cannot reach an agreement. If the judge expresses a view about the strength or weakness of the appeal or response, or about the strength of the evidence, that is not binding on the parties, but it is hoped that it will help them to reach their own agreement. Anything said at the JADR meeting should be kept confidential and not referred to after that hearing.
  6. The judge may ask the parties to sign a draft consent order if an agreement is reached in principle. If the parties are not able to reach agreement at the JADR hearing a short report will be prepared identifying the issues to be decided by the Tribunal and relevant legislative provisions to be taken into consideration.
  7. It is important to stress that the purpose of the JADR hearing is to carry out the Tribunal’s duty under rule 3 of the Tribunal Procedure Rules 2008 (as amended) to encourage the use by the parties of an alternative procedure for the resolution of the dispute and facilitate the use of the procedure if the parties so wish and to further the overriding objective set out in rule 2.
  8. The overriding objective enables the Tribunal to deal with cases fairly and justly, which includes:

These principles will be applied in JADR hearings.

Although in exceptional circumstances, some necessary case management directions may be given by the judge at the JADR hearing, the purpose of the hearing will be to focus on ways of encouraging the parties to resolve their dispute by agreement. It would not be appropriate to consider issues such as postponing the final hearing, directing further evidence or considering detailed disputes over a hearing bundle, at a JADR hearing.

Credit: SOS SEN: https://sossen.org.uk/

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Special Educational Provision
Who is Responsible for Ensuring it is Put in Place?

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This video gives and overview of the law around the special educational provision contained in an EHC plan and identifies who is responsible for ensuring it is made or put in place. Many people believe it is the school or Post16 provision identified in section I of the EHC plan and this is simply not the case:-

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Mental Health Week – How To Improve Your Mental Health an article by our Ambassador Siena Castellon 

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Our mental health and well-being depend on our ability to manage our thoughts, regulate our emotions, and control our behaviour. Of course, this is much easier said than done. At some point in our lives, every one of us will struggle with our mental health. One of the ways to improve your mental health is to recognize and challenge your thinking errors.

Thinking errors are unhealthy thinking patterns that are twisted, distorted, or false. In other words, these distorted thoughts are your mind convincing you to believe negative things about yourself and your world that are not necessarily true.

Since our thoughts greatly influence how we feel and how we behave, listening to and believing in distorted thoughts can significantly impact our emotions, behaviours, and views. By learning to recognize and manage your thinking errors, you’ll build the mental strength to overcome the setbacks and challenges that life will inevitably throw at you.

Below are 12 of the most common thinking errors:

  1. Fortune Telling. This is when we predict that things will turn out badly, even if we have absolutely no proof that this will be the case. This thinking error can set us up to fail. If we believe things will go wrong, we may inadvertently act in a way that causes things to go wrong. For example, you want to invite Kalinda to go to a concert with you, but you convince yourself that she’s going to say no. So, you don’t ask her and end up missing out on an opportunity to hang out with someone you want to get to know better.

  2. Disqualifying The Positive. This is when nine good things happen and one bad thing happens, yet we only focus on the one bad thing. In other words, positive experiences don’t count as much as perceived negative experiences. Filtering out and dismissing the positive can prevent us from establishing a realistic perception of a situation. Developing a balanced outlook requires us to notice both the positive and the negative.
  3. Catastrophizing. This is when we see things as being much worse than they are. In other words, we blow things out of proportion. For example, you text a friend (who usually responds quickly). When you don’t hear back from her for a few hours, you convince yourself that she is mad at you and will never speak to you again.
  4. All-Or-Nothing Thinking. This is when we only see things as being black or white. We may take the view that we have to be perfect, or we’re a complete failure! There is no middle ground. Instead of seeing things only in extremes, we need to recognize the shades of grey.
  5. Overgeneralizing. This is when someone reaches a general conclusion based on a single incident or a single piece of evidence. If something terrible happens just once, we then expect it to happen over and over again. We may see a single, unpleasant event as part of a never-ending pattern of defeat. For example, if you bomb an exam, you conclude that you’re a terrible student who won’t get into any university.
  6. Magnifying The Negative. This is when we magnify and zoom in on the negative aspects of our day. We may declare that we had a bad day, despite having had a few positive experiences throughout the day. Or we may look back at our performance and say it was terrible because we made a single mistake. Magnifying the negative can prevent you from establishing a realistic outlook on a situation.
  7. Jumping To Conclusions. This is when we assume that we know what another person is feeling and thinking and exactly why they act the way they do. We may even believe that we can determine how others feel towards us, as though we can read their mind. For example, you may conclude that a classmate is holding a grudge against you, but don’t try to determine if this assumption is correct.
  8. Emotional Reasoning. This is when we believe that our emotions accurately reflect the reality of the situation. For example, “I feel guilty, so I must have done something bad,” or “I feel afraid, so I must be in a dangerous situation.
  9. Labelling. This is when we take an overgeneralization and put a label on it. For example, since you didn’t know the answer to a question in class, you decide that you’re stupid and a terrible student.

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Here are some suggestions as to how you can learn to recognize and manage your thinking errors.

10. Replace Absolutes. Once you focus on your thoughts and recognize a pattern, consider replacing statements such as “always” with “sometimes.” For example, instead of telling yourself you are always late, instead tell yourself that we are sometimes late.

11. Label Your Behaviour. Instead of labelling and judging yourself, label the behaviour. For example, instead of  referring to yourself as “lazy” because you didn’t clean today, consider replacing the thought with “I just didn’t clean today.” One action doesn’t have to define you.

12. Focus on the Positives. Although it may be challenging, try to find at least three positive examples in each situation. For example, the pandemic allowed us to spend more time with our family, gave us time to explore new interests and made us grateful for things we had previously taken for granted. It might not feel natural at first, but eventually, it may become a spontaneous habit.

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to recognize and eliminate your harmful thinking errors so that you can live your best life. When our thoughts are distorted, our emotions are, too. By becoming aware and redirecting these negative thoughts, you can significantly improve your mood and quality of life.
Excerpt from “The Spectrum Girl’s Toolkit: The Workbook for Autistic Girls.

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Siena Castellon is an 18-year-old multi-award winning neurodiversity advocate, author and United Nations Young Leader for the SDGs. She is the founder of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, an international initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences by highlighting the strengths and accomplishments of the neurodivergent community. Siena is also the author of The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How To Grow Up Awesome and Autistic and The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Toolkit: The Workbook for Autistic Girls.

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Mental Health Week – The Mental Health Act and Autism

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As part of Mental Health Awareness week, AKO has taken the opportunity to focus on the review of The Mental Health Act 1983 (“MHA”) which is currently underway and will focus on what the implications are for autistic people.

The MHA is piece of legislation which addresses the identification “.. care and treatment of mentally disordered patients, the management of their property and other related matters”. A mental disorder means “any disorder or disability of the mind; and mentally disordered shall be construed accordingly”. Some Examples of mental disorders are:

• Schizophrenia
• Depression
• Anxiety disorder
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
• Eating disorders
• Personality disorders

AND

• Autism

The MHA details what happens when a person be admitted, detained, and treated in hospital against their wishes i.e., they are not a voluntary patient; this is commonly known as being ‘sectioned’. For this to happen, specific people i.e., psychiatrists and other approved professionals must agree that a person has a mental disorder that requires a stay in hospital.

In hospital a person can have an assessment i.e., under section 2 MHA and be given treatment i.e., under section 3 MHA if needed. This can be done when, in the opinion of certain processionals, a person is putting their own safety or someone else’s at risk. It is important to appreciate that treatment such as Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be given treatment even when a person doesn’t want it.

It is a certainly a large statute which has long history and has been amended a number of times. It even has its own Code of Practice, a copy of which can be found here HERE. The MHA is limited to the MHA in England and Wales – Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own mental health legislation.

It would be fair to say that over recent years a view has formed that the MHA is not fit for purpose, particularly because treatment seems to vary significantly depending on. For example, protected characteristics such as race. With regards to autistic people, many disliked being characterised as having “mental disorder”. Further there is a strong body of opinion that mental health “crises” for autistic people were often caused by inadequate support and discriminatory attitudes.

Concerns such as these lead to the Government produce a White Paper, which a policy documents produced by the Government that set out their proposals for future legislation in a defined area. It is clearly the intention of the Government to address these concerns by increased investment in mental health services and by the recommendation in the document document which can be found HERE.

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The White Paper – What May Change for Autistic People?

The following proposals have been made in relation to how autistic people who are seen to have a mental disorder requiring intervention should be treated by the mental health system:

a) Autism should not be considered a mental disorder for which someone can be detained for treatment under Section 3 (which potentially has no time limit) ONLY assessment under section 2 for a maximum of 28 days should be permitted. That said, section 3 could be used if there was evidence of a “a co-occurring mental health condition”, but the following clarification is also given which is helpful:

The proposed revisions would allow for the detention of people with learning disability and autistic people for assessment, under section 2, of the Mental Health Act, when their behaviour is so distressed that there is a substantial risk of significant harm to self or others (as for all detentions) and a probable mental health cause to that behaviour that warrants assessment in hospital.

b) The white paper is clear that autism should not of itself be grounds for detention. Further an autistic person who is sectioned should not become over reliant on inpatient services when detained, the emphasis being on being supported but NOT in hospital. Further it is recommended that support it is agreed a person needs when being discharged should be given “statutory force”.

c) Whilst there does not seem to be any specific recommendation in this regard, the use of “restraint” and “restrictive practices” on autistic people in the care system is noted and concerns implied.

d) Mental Health Tribunals review detention and can, if appropriate, discharge a patient form a “section”. It is unfortunate that many panel members lack expertise and experience in autism and is recommended that this should be addressed as far as English Tribunals are concerned. It is also suggested the Tribunal become more accessible and less bureaucratic, as it the case currently and they also be allowed to review treatment and its compatibility with patient preferences

e) The Code of Practice (see above) should “clarify best practice when the MHA is used for people with autism, learning disability or both”

f) Whilst this may seem obvious to many, there is a recognition that “autism cannot be removed through treatment”

g) There should be increased monitoring of the detention of people with autism with the existence of the condition being made clear to support staff.

So, what does this mean? Nothing yet as the above are only proposals. That said, given that sections under section 3 of the MHT will be inappropriate for autistic people without any other underlying condition, it does create the possibility that there will be far fewer autistic adults and young people being detained for very long periods of time with little prospect of relief – something we see all too often now

To conclude, there does neem to be a recognition of how the MHA, designed to support people, often lets people with autism down and this at least is a good start.

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